The recession has failed to slow the rise of premium clothing makers Rapha – in fact they've grown a whopping 75 percent, year on year – and for 2010 they're back with a large spring/summer range plus a new line of womenswear.
We were shown the complete range by Rapha's CE Simon Mottram. Here are the highlights.
There are no major changes to Rapha's core racing and training range, just refinements and new colours. The popular Country Jersey (£100) now has a full zip to differentiate it from the Club Jersey, and the national stripes have been moved from the chest to the sleeve.
There's a new British version – red, with a Union Flag worked into the arm stripe – plus Italian, French and Belgian jerseys. All are made of Sportwool (40 percent merino, 60 percent polyester). Italian arm warmers and a British Cap are available.
"We reckon it will be our number one product," Mottram told BikeRadar.
The British Country Jersey
The short-zip Club Jersey (£95) is available in three new colourways: a pink/white/grey design inspired by master framebuilder Dario Pegoretti, with a flame icon on the rear pocket; a grey/yellow/dark grey version inspired by Johan Museeuw and the Arenberg Forest, with the Lion of Flanders; and a blue/white/yellow top inspired by Sean Kelly's KAS team, with the Spanish bull.
The three designs of the club jersey
The Lightweight Jersey (£85) is unchanged but is now available in pale blue as well as white; the windproof and water-resistant Stowaway jacket (£165) is now available in pink or grey; and the gilet (softshell £150, standard £115) now has two thin lines instead of a thick stripe, and is available in black or white. A Rapha Condor Sharp team kit is also available (jersey £115, shorts £145).
The Stowaway jackets come in grey and pink
Rapha boss Simon Mottram describes the women's range as "small but significant", made up as it is of just three garments initially. It's been in development for 18 months and is due to be launched in London on 23 March. According to Mottram, they're "classic Rapha products that just fit women perfectly".
Women's Classic jersey, cream arm warmers and shorts
There's a female-specific version of the Classic Jersey, available in black or red, with a cream stripe on the arm and matching cream arm warmers. The women's Stowaway Jacket is available in the same colours. On the shorts front, Rapha have opted for a non-bib design with a high waist, a flat seam on the front for more comfort, and longer legs than many women's designs. Bib shorts are in the pipeline. Prices TBC.
Women's Stowaway jacket
Rapha are distancing themselves from the 'Fixed' tag of old with their latest line of city riding clobber. New products include a V-Neck Baselayer (£55) made of superfine merino wool and Merino Boxers (£40) with a thin, triathlon-style pad and mesh side panels, both of which have been designed for all-day use, on the bike and then in the office.
In a similar vein, the new gingham check shirts combine office-friendly looks with performance features including stretchy, breathable cotton/polyester mix fabric, offset shoulder seams (to avoid bag straps rubbing) and a pocket on the back for a phone or keys. The Long Sleeve Shirt (£90) is available in blue or black, and the Short Sleeve (£75) in pink or blue.
Gingham check shirt
For more casual workplaces there's the Rapha Polo (£90) made of pure merino wool, in black with a pink trim. The Rapha Trousers (£150) are now available in grey as well as black, and the popular Touring Shorts (£70) come in black or light grey. The Fixed Shorts boast a new thinner, fabric which makes them more suitable for summer use, but it's still stain- and water-resistant. They're available in khaki or blue and are £10 cheaper than last year at £120.
Fixed shorts in khaki
If you're feeling flush, Rapha have teamed up with LA-based Apolis Activism to produce the limited edition Transit Elite Sweater. Hand-knitted in Nepal from 30 percent cashmere and 70 percent merino, it costs a staggering £285.
Transit Elite sweater
We showed you Rapha's £3,000 bespoke cycling suit last year. Now they're producing an off-the-peg version which is a lot more affordable – £400 – but shares many features with the top-end suit, including button-up flaps on the front, softened shoulders for a better fit on the bike and Rapha's trademark pink stitching. It should be available in June.
In a bit of a departure from the norm, Rapha are to bring out their first CDs this year. Based on the great road races, they will feature an hour-long mix of popular local songs (from folk to opera and techno), radio jingles, commentary and crowd noise. A Giro d'Italia disc is due out in April, followed by the Tour de France in May, with the Vuelta and Classics to follow.
They're also diversifying into iPhone Apps, with a piece of software codenamed Rendezvous due out in April which aims to help with the organising of group rides – it'll let you send out invites, co-ordinate riders and track them via GPS.
Other plans include a skincare range – beginning with a chamois cream, embrocation and soap in July, although plans are also in the pipeline for a fragrance based on the "smell of Ventoux" – the second part of their Guide to the Great Road Climbs, pop-up 'cycle clubs' in London and New York this summer, and events ranging from a Gentleman's Race to one-week Rapha Randonnees. For more details, see www.rapha.cc.